Genocide Trial against Guatemalan Dictator Suspended Once Again

Judge Valdez recused herself from the trial after Rios Montt’s defense team presented a motion for her to step down from the trial.

Source: teleSUR English

The trial of Guatemalan former dictator Efrain Rios Montt was suspended once again after Judge Janeth Valdez recused herself from the trial after the defense team argued she could not be impartial.

Their accusations that she would not preside fairly over the trial stem from a thesis she wrote in 2004 on genocide. Her recusal means that the trial will be suspended indefinitely until a new tribunal can be formed. The defense team has been pursuing a strategy of delays and obstructions in order to avoid having their client stand trial.

Rios Montt was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity in May 2013 and sentence to 80 years in prison. That decision was overturned by Guatemala’s Constitutional Court ten days later.

After numerous delay tactics and procedural motions by the defense were dealt with, a retrial date was eventually set for January 5, 2015.

A separate tribunal is set to decide if Rios Montt is covered by an amnesty law that was decreed by an unelected government. A staggering 61 judges recused themselves from that decision, it was finally formed in late December 2014 and given five days to issue a ruling, that deadline has already passed without a ruling being issued.

It has been a tumultuous day in the court. The trial had begun in the morning but was then promptly suspended after files relating to the case were missing and a request was made to change courtrooms.

Ealier today, Judge Valdez ordered the former dictator to appear in the courtroom for his trial.

She had rejected the doctor’s note provided by Rios Montt that suggested his health was too poor to attend the trial. His lawyers argued that forcing him to attend the trial would violate his human rights, an argument the judge did not accept.

In what supporters of the victims of genocide called a “show,” the former dictator was then brought in on a stretcher.

It is unclear when the trial will resume and whether Rios Montt will be forced to attend the trial.